The waiting is over and an historic coalition government has been formed. In what was a dramatic evening, David Cameron stepped through the doors of Downing Street as Prime Minister, with former rival Nick Clegg taking his place as deputy.
However, with unemployment at its highest level since 2004 and a staggering circa £167bn hole in the public finances, the new Government must prove itself able to set aside party differences, agree on priorities and work together decisively to reign in public spending whilst delivering better public services.
There will now be a time of policy review with an emergency Budget taking place within 50 days. This will result in many Government capital projects being delayed for a few months until priorities are reset - this process alone could deliver the £6bn efficiency figure discussed in the TV debates.
If we look at this optimistically, then the outcome of the new coalition will be that the best policies are taken from each party and a clear direction taken that will drive public sector efficiency. On the flipside, if our glass is half empty, then we may be in for a period of limbo and inter-coalition wrangling. This could lead to ‘savings’ by default through extended delay in making any big decisions!
No matter what, it is likely that we will see less capital expenditure across the board and a stronger desire to improve the efficiency and returns on existing public sector assets, projects and programmes.
So do we reach for our hair shirts and pencil sharpeners…or roll up our sleeves, get on the front foot and show that building is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
We live in interesting times indeed!
Graham Kean, Head of Public at EC Harris